Bolt Action US Marines

I have armies for all the major Bolt Action nations except for the USA so inevitably I am taking the plunge.  I went for USMC rather than the other USA flavours because I have a Japanese army (used twice) for them to play with.  Warlord have a New Guinea campaign book and the USMC were at Bougainville island, part of the Territory of New Guinea.   The new USA formations in that book are, however, army rather than marines.  There is some revised USMC material in the Empires in Flames book.  There are 2 relevant lists in the original armies of USA book. This article is an attempt at the 1944-45 list keeping to the book restrictions, trying to make the force relatively historical, yet hoping for something that has some hope of winning.

Osprey have a number of books on the USMC and their campaigns in WW2. For the more thrifty there is a fine selection of official USMC WW2 documents on-line.  These were originally aimed at marines and prospective marines.  There is some discussion of small unit encounters and the images although small are useful.  Take note that the text indicates the sentiments of the times and does not favour the Japanese viewpoint.

By the latter part of the war a full strength marine squad was of 13 men with 3 BARs, able to spilt into 3 fire teams of 4 with a BAR in each and an overall commander.  The commander was supposed to command and direct rather than shoot except when all out firepower was required.   The USMC list allows this, at regular with 3 BARs and 1 SMG (to identify the NCO) costing 148 points.  Run 3 of these for a full platoon with a commander and assistant at 504 points.  Double that, drop a man and you have a 2 platoon army at 1,000 points.  Neither is a great solution as 3 platoons is too few and 6 rules out any support and pays the HQ tax twice.  The full strength platoon is an option that can be done straight from the USMC army box as that has 42 men, leaving 2 for officers and 1 to observe for the mortar that also comes in the box.  If going with the (30 man) platoon box, 2 will be needed to make up enough marines and BARs.


There should be a 13 man squad here with 3 BARs but another guy snuck into the shot

You cannot have a marine infantry squad below 7 in number with this list (the earlier marine raiders unit does) so splitting into individual fire teams is not going to work.  Even if it did units of 4 are very vulnerable to 50% losses and failing morale checks.  The 3 full strength squads could be deployed as 13, 9 (1 team detached), 9 and 8 (2 detached squads operating together).  Each of these after the 1st would have 2 BARs.  Another BAR could be squeezed in under Bolt Action list rules but 3 BARs in a squad of 8 would be against doctrine plus would reduce the ratio of ‘redshirts’ required to keep the BARs operating.  Squads of 13 veterans are a big points sink so running an understrength squad of 8 with 2 BARS and a SMG on the NCO runs to 117 points.  Any marine can carry a pistol in addition to other weapons for 1 point.  This confers assault and tough fighter.  It is a good way to soak up 9 or less left over points in an army.  It is a bonus best given to the BAR men as they are less likely to be chosen as casualties and it makes some sense that a BAR might be an encumbrance in hand to hand.

The USMC army list uses the army engineers squad which does not work out for the marine organisation.  Marines did have assault or demolition squads but these should include a bazooka and a flamethrower but have no BARs.  The best the list can do is the option to add a flamethrower and the anti-tank and minefield gear that is probably not needed.  It is a means to add another 7 men to the army without breaking force organisation rules.  A fair choice at veteran but 7 regulars is quite flimsy.  93 points at regular (with 1 SMG) with the flame guy saving the 50 for a standalone team and a slight points saving overall (93-50=43 for 5 shooting regulars).  A mortar with spotter is always a good buy in any army.  If the marines were to do a beach assault the same problem will crop up as in the real assaults.  In many cases the mortar will be too close to target the enemy you want to be hitting.  The MMG options come in the army box, historically they are a good supply of firepower for a small investment in manpower.  If running with a full company and sticking to the organisation they are a good buy.  If running with a looser army, perhaps 2 platoons below strength acting together more regular squad boots are the way to go.

The USA ‘secret powers’ are firing without the penalty for moving, the ability to call in 2 airstrikes and to bring on reserves without the -1 roll.  The first and last are OK but not up to the standard of the British, French and Soviet free units.  The airstrike rule is useful but you have to buy the observer, obvious sniper bait.  Airstrikes stick with units and move with them so need to be landed on a unit that has moved or is unlikely to move.  Otherwise units close by the target scatter and the target may even rush your own lines to try to share out the pins.  Driving off airstrikes is also relatively easy in v2 providing some sort of pintle weapon is to hand.  Even so having watched ‘Flying Leathernecks’ and seen references to air and naval gun support it is tempting not to include an air observer with a marine list.  Having paid for this a sniper is a clear buy as some way to counteract possible enemy snipers.  Other USMC sniper bait that should be bought include the Bazooka, a hefty 60 points but a mobile anti-tank asset and the war dog.  At 18 points the dog is a very cheap dice.


Bazooka and sniper teams

Several scenarios have hidden set up and the ability to remove this while staying out of sight oneself is valuable.   EasyArmy could be clearer but on checking the book the dog is a weapon for the handler not a separate model.  You can’t take a hit on the handler and leave the dog.


Dog, observers and HQ. The pooch is from Crooked Dice

Throw in the 37mm gun and 3 regular squads with flamer engineer squad, observer, mortar, war dog and veteran sniper comes to 937 points.


Mortar and 37mm ATG

A MMG and mate for the observer or stack of pistols would round off under 1,000 points.  To get a bit more flexibility will require dropping some infantry as 63 points (1,000 – 937) does not buy much.


Warlord 30 Cals, the standing guy with the MMG would make a good Sgt Rock

The USMC can choose a jeep or White scout car as recce but the scout car is really an early or mid war solution.  There were plenty of jeeps so running one with a MMG is reasonable.  This could be seen as an adapted jeep or a MMG team who jump out or fire over the side.  At 36 points this is a lot less than the team alone (50 points) and unlike the raw team would be hard to snipe away.  The only downside is that 1 shot could knock out the jeep (hit, followed by 6, followed by 4+ damage roll) but 3 (hits followed by 5+ for regulars) would be needed for the team.


This Matchbox jeep has been cut modded for 3 different armies but never used on the table

Stoking up to 1250 points allows some armour choice.  The tank selection has several flame tank options.  These are historical but are often banned in competitive play so best not go there.  Of the Stuarts there are some wrecked M3A1s on Guadacanal and The Solomons that probably date from 1943.  The M3A3 would be ending its useful life and some USMC units were issued with the M5A1.  The Bolt Action list includes the M8 Scott.  This is a cavalry howitzer support vehicle, although it was used in the Pacific it is probably best confined to the army.   The M7 Priest was used by the USMC in 1945 and being open topped saves a few points over buying a tank.  Marine armour was most likely to be Shermans.  The M4A2 or early M4A3 version is best including the howitzer variant.  The later 76mm versions were not used by the Marines in order to minimise different ammunition issue.  Those versions have a different turret and bigger gun so are not the tanks you want.  There are various M3 half track variants in the armour list but some will require modding up a vanilla M3.  There are some nice period images of WW2 armour in the Pacific on this Sherman tank site.  This does include a M8 Scott but the caption does not make it clear if it is in use with the army or the marines.  Rather more fun but not available on the list are the LVT supports that had all sorts of stuff welded on including a rocket launcher version.


LVT-2 and Sherman

The LVT route is worth going down if only for period feel.  A LVTA2 with 2MMGs is 116 points but a M3 comes out at 114.  A slight tax for the amphibious rule that is unlikely ever to be called into play.  The tank versions LVTA1 or LVTA4 look the part but were best used as fire support parked just off the beach in the surf so are less common inland.  The transports could show up either crossing small bodies of water or moving through swampy ground.  Transports are a poor buy in Bolt Action, better to have another squad and make them all walk but do add colour and the pintle guns are handy if your own planes come in on them.  You can put 18 men in a LVT2 and 30 in the LVT4 enough for a squad, a flame team and maybe a commander.   The original LVT is a soft-skin, massively over-costed at 98 points and not likely to be a popular choice in the combat role by this time in the war.

The USMC army box partly matches the army plan above.  It is one of the more expensive army boxes but these items are often discounted and may be a better buy than getting the parts separately.  It has enough infantry for the correct BAR ratio, the mortar is always useful and for an infantry only army the 37mm anti-tank gun is more use than the pack howitzer.  The 2 MMG teams are overkill, taking 1 is a luxury although they do give a correct if expensive firepower to boots on the ground ratio.  The M3 half track is the odd man out.  The marines did have M3s but no dedicated mechanised infantry units.  The M3s would be more likely used in a HQ or support role rather than a troop transport.  As some consolation M3s do show up in a couple of episodes of HBO’s The Pacific.  With some modelling and a spare 75mm howitzer (ideally the French 75mm as that was the basis of the gun used) the M3 GMC could be built as this is in the Bolt Action lists and was used by the marines in the Pacific.  Alternately Company B have a ready made one in their range.  The later version of the M3 GMC has a box canopy over the gun, it would only offer limited protection but in Bolt Action terms the vehicle loses open topped.

The M3 was probably chosen to put in the army box as it is a plastic kit and a better item to profit from in volume that a resin model.  A Sherman would have been a good choice but Warlord issued that with the US Army box and may not have wished to duplicate their efforts.  If repackaged now the best choice from amongst the Warlord plastic models available would have been the M3A1 Stuart.


The whole army awaiting allotment to billets